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March 11, 2011, Last Updated June 13, 2014
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Imagine the distress caused by a sudden weakening of the
muscles in your face. You can’t smile or close your eye, and
can only move half of your facial features. What does it
mean if your face becomes paralyzed? Are you having a
One of the most common forms of facial muscle weakness
is Bell's palsy. Every year, 25 out of 100,000 people in the
United States suffer from this frightening but often
temporary condition, according to Teixeira, Soares, Vieira
and Prado in their 2008 work “Physical therapy for Bells
palsy.” Bells palsy, although frightening, is very different
from a stroke – the weakness is confined to the face and
full recovery occurs in 70 percent of cases after two to
three months (UK’s National Health Service).
What is Bell's Palsy?
Bell's Palsy is a sudden – normally taking effect over one or
two hours – weakening of the facial muscles, most
commonly on one side of the face only.
Bell's palsy is connected with a problem affecting the facial
nerve. The facial nerve supplies the muscles you need to
smile, frown, wink and close your eyes.
Signs of Bells palsy include a drooping face, difficulty
chewing on the affected side, difficulty speaking and the
inability to close your eye. Loud sounds may make you
uncomfortable and normal speech can sound like shouting.
You may even lose the sense of taste on certain parts of
Can you prevent Bell's palsy and its associated, distressing
signs? Is there anything you can do to cure Bells palsy? A
course of steroids started at the onset of symptoms helps
improve the chances of full recovery. But are there any
natural remedies that may prove useful?
What Causes Bell's Palsy?
Unfortunately the causes of Bell's palsy are not clear. It is
thought that the area around the facial nerve becomes
inflamed, squashing the nerve as it passes through the
head. When the nerve stops working correctly, the muscles
it supplies stop working too.
Many experts believe Bells palsy is caused by a virus
infection – the cold sore virus, or the chickenpox virus.
Experts don’t fully know why, but these common viruses
lay dormant to reactivate again in later life. In the case of
the chickenpox virus, it can also reactivate to cause
shingles later in life, so if you have had Bell's palsy, you are
at increased risk for shingles also.
Who Suffers From Bell's Palsy?
Anyone can suffer from Bell's palsy – men and women are
equally affected – but Bell's palsy is most common between
the ages of 10 and 40, according to BMJ Clinical Evidence.
Around one in 70 people will experience Bells palsy at some
point in their life. However, people with diabetes are
significantly more likely to suffer (Adour K, Wingerd J, Doty
HE. “Prevalence of concurrent diabetes mellitus and
idiopathic facial paralysis (Bell's palsy)” 1975) and
pregnant women and people with weakened immune
systems may be more at risk of experiencing the condition.
Thankfully, Bell's palsy usually resolves itself with
treatment. According to Holland and Weiner, 2004, “Recent
developments in Bell's palsy,” almost everyone who can
still move their facial muscles to some extent recover
However, according to England’s National Health Service,
around three in 10 people with Bell's palsy will continue to
have weakness in their facial muscles after six months and
two out of 10 will suffer a long-term issue with the facial
nerve and their face will look different to normal. Is there
anything you can do to lessen the chances of a serious
problem with Bells palsy?
We looked at the available evidence to list the top 10 most
useful remedies for beating Bell's palsy.
Top 10 Natural Remedies for Bell's Palsy
1. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Helps Treat Bell's Palsy?
Does the air that we breathe help treat Bell's palsy? Not
exactly, but breathing 100 percent pure oxygen at
increased pressure may do so. One 1997 study from
University of Zagreb School of Medicine, Split, Croatia
found hyperbaric oxygen was more effective than a regular
drug to control the symptoms of Bell's palsy. Patients
recovered significantly more quickly when using the oxygen
therapy than with the drug or placebo.
2. Vitamin Therapy as a Remedy for Bell's Palsy
Vitamin B12, B6 and zinc have been recommended for
treating Bell's palsy as they encourage nerve growth.
Vitamin B12, in particular, is popular with alternative
therapists. A 1995 study from University of Malaya, Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia found injected Vitamin B12 was better
than steroids for treating Bell's palsy.
Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal foods. Foods rich
in Vitamin B12 include cooked clams (1648% of the daily
recommended value), oysters (408%) and mussels
Vitamins may also play a part in preventing Bell's palsy.
Although the precise cause of Bell's palsy is unknown,
keeping your immune system strong and healthy may help
reduce your risk of experiencing the condition, according to
advice from the UK’s National Health Service. Keeping your
vitamin levels tip-top is one excellent way to boost your
3. Acupuncture is a Treatment for Bell's Palsy
Can the ancient art of acupuncture treat your Bell's palsy?
When combined with moxibustion (a form of traditional
Chinese medicine), acupuncture was more effective in
treating Bells palsy than a regular drugs treatment,
according to a 2004 study from Chengdu University of
TCM, Chengdu, China. However, a 2010 review of
published trials by West China Hospital, Sichuan University,
China concerning acupuncture’s potency failed to find any
direct evidence of the therapy working.
4. Biofeedback Fights Bell's Palsy
Biofeedback is a method of controlling the uncontrollable –
biofeedback puts automatically-occurring bodily functions
like heart rate and blood pressure within your conscious
control with the aid of a biofeedback machine. The aim is to
teach the unconscious system to act in the correct way
when it comes to lowering pain, or reducing blood
pressure. Some biofeedback machines can measure muscle
tension and brain wave activity, which is where the therapy
may come in useful for treating Bells palsy.
5. Botox is a Remedy for Bell's Palsy
Not just for a pretty face, Botox may help reduce the
severity of Bel'ls palsy symptoms. A 2007 study from
Melbourne's Brain Research Institute, Australia found
Botox along with facial exercise training helps rearrange
damaged areas responsible for facial movements. Scientists
looked at 20 sufferers for six months in order to assess the
potential of Botox and came to the conclusion about its
6. Protect Your Eye if You Have Bell's Palsy
When you suffer from Bells palsy you cannot fully close
your eyelid and your eye is at risk of damage. Not to
mention a permanently open eye can be painful and
distressing. Try an eye patch or glasses to protect the eye
until Bell's palsy is brought under control and sleep with
your eye taped together to protect it until your eyelid
becomes usable again. At regular moments throughout the
day, use a clean finger to open and close your eyelid. This
will help keep the eye moist. You can also use artificial tears
or eye drops to counteract the dryness that comes from
not being able to water your eye.
7. Could Turmeric Help Treat Bell's Palsy?
Turmeric, the herb in the ginger family, may possess anti-
inflammatory powers which in turn could make it an
effective Bell's palsy treatment. Much of the speculation is
based on turmeric containing curcumin, an antioxidant.
However, specific research into turmeric’s effect on Bell's
palsy needs to be completed before we can draw any firm
8. Green-Lipped Muscles as a Bell's Palsy Treatment?
On a similar note, the green-lipped muscle shows promise
as an anti-inflammatory. Could chowing down on these
Japanese appetizers help reduce Bell's palsy symptoms and
lessen the condition’s duration? Again, further research is
needed on the mollusk’s effectiveness for Bell's palsy
specifically but one 2000 study from the University of
California found it had greater potency in reducing
inflammation than plants and fish oils currently used for
9. Molybdenum Combats Bell's Palsy
The trace mineral molybdenum – found in dark, leafy
vegetables, legumes and whole grains – may not be a
household name but it is being touted as a remedy for Bell’
s palsy among other conditions. Molybdenum comes in
tablet and liquid form.
10. Physical Therapy Relieves Bell's Palsy Symptoms
Massaging your face, gently manipulating the muscles and
exercising your features on the advice of a physical
therapist should help take away the symptoms of Bell's
palsy, right? A 2011 review of research into facial exercise
therapy by Universidade Estadual de Londrina-UEM,
Londrina, Brazil said yes – researchers discovered this kind
of movement therapy is effective for treating Bell's palsy.
Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga may
also help reduce muscle tension which can contribute to
facial pain, plus help you deal with the stress caused by the
sudden arrival of this condition.
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|Clams are rich in Vitamin B12, which
encourages nerve health and helps